G3: The IMRF’s Third International Mass Rescue Conference

Posted in MRO News

The IMRF have held the third in our series of international mass rescue conferences, continuing the series begun in 2010. Once again the main venue was the fine waterfront head-quarters of IMRF Members the Swedish Sea Rescue Society (SSRS).

The event was attended by 122 people, representing 72 organisations from 30 countries.

Delegates were able to hear from an excellent panel of expert speakers – but IMRF conferences are always about much more than just listening! On this occasion the conference included both a simulated mass rescue operation and the opportunity to participate in an exercise using an 'ark'-type liferaft, as well as G32'open space' discussion sessions in which delegates could raise any mass rescue subject they wished. It all made for a lively mix!

The simulated MRO took place in the multi-bridge simulation suite at Chalmers University on the Sunday afternoon preceding the main conference. Although primarily intended to help delegates 'get in the mood', it also represented a unique and exciting research opportunity – the first time such a simulation has been run anywhere in the world. The exercise development team intend to take the idea further.

At the close of the conference the IMRF made the following statements of intent:
We will continue to promote discussion of MROs, to help SAR and supporting organisations
prepare for these rare but extremely challenging events
We will help SAR agencies raise the profile of MROs, to build support for SAR services
and thus improve the safety, security and well-being of people working and travelling by sea
We will seek to work closely with the passenger shipping, offshore, and other
relevant industries and sectors
To these ends we will run mass rescue operations workshops and conferences
as and when required and resources permit
We will carefully consider the detailed results of this conference
We will continue to work closely with the ICAO / IMO Joint Working Group on SAR,
considering potential amendments to international regulation and guidance
Our subject-matter expert group will continue its work
We will launch our MRO reference library at the World Maritime Rescue Congress in
Bremerhaven, 1-4 June 2015
The full conference report may be downloaded from our website.

The liferaft exercise saw a good number of delegates boarding using the raft's chutes. The raft was towed a little way offshore, where SSRS rescue craft demonstrated the water-calming effect of circling it.

The delegates then experienced the difficulties of getting out of the raft: a rescue boat had to be used as an intermediary platform.

G33Keynote addresses were given to the conference by Dan Sten Olsson, owner and CEO of Stena AB (which includes Stena Line, the largest ferry company in the world), and Andrew Winbow, Assistant Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Mr Olsson emphasised the importance of learning from each other, while Mr Winbow noted the IMRF's assistance in IMO's ongoing development of the global SAR plan.

The expert panel of speakers explored various MRO issues.

Sirio Faè, of the Italian Coast, gave a full report on the rescue operations following the grounding of the Costa Concordia in 2012. The United States' Coast Guard's Paul Culver spoke about the major live exercise 'Black Swan', conducted in 2013, for which he was Exercise Director.

An important theme of G3 was how SAR services should work with passenger ships – seeing them as SAR resources as well as potential 'customers'. Hernan Zini, representing IMRF's fellow NGO at the IMO, Cruise Lines International Association, and Madis Lembit, of Tallink and Silja Lines, reminded delegates that "the ship is the best lifeboat".

They discussed how SAR services and industry can best work together, especially as regards communications and the provision of additional resources to assist masters caught up in emergencies.G35

Zhang Rongjun of the IMRF's Asia-Pacific Regional Centre spoke on the mass rescue challenges in that part of the world, referring especially to the recent Malaysian Airlines and South Korean ferry disasters.

The conference then turned to specific consideration of the survival and retrieval phases, with talks by Jörgen Lorén on a rescue conducted by the Stena Saga; Matthew Fader on a liferaft experiment; and – while the delegates were returning from their own 'liferaft experience' – a moving and highly informative talk by Mohammad Mobarak Hossain on his 40 hours in the sea in July 2013, during which he was badly injured by ships attempting to pick him up.

Chan Kwok-wai and James Instance, managers of the Hong Kong and Falmouth MRCCs respectively, spoke about mass rescue coordination issues. Chan passed on the lessons learned from the Lamma IV disaster and two cruise ship exercises. James showed how applying lessons learned improves response, citing two mid-Atlantic rescues, beyond the reach of shore-based SAR units and so conducted by merchant ships.

A senior emergency planning officer, Steve Scully, discussed the shoreside aspects of MROs, and urged that more attention be given to the shoreline interface between at-sea and on-land response operations.

G36Finally Toni Fohlin reported on the Baltic Sea Maritime Incident Response Survey – Baltic States are clear that they need to work together on MROs, and are seeking ways of improving their coordinated response – and Michael Baldauf of the World Maritime University spoke about integrated simulation-based team training, and how this might be used to prepare for MROs: he emph-asised the importance of focussing on the human element in emer-gencies and emergency response.



The subjects raised and discussed by delegates in the 'open space' sessions were:

o remote area / cold weather MROs
o civil / military SAR cooperation
o aircraft incidents
o communications
o recovery at sea
o training & preparation
o asset management
o safety / survival equipment
o the 'capability gap'
o survivor landing & reception

The IMRF has recorded the outcomes of these discussions, and of the conference as a whole.

You can find the full report on the G3 Website.

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